The short proline-rich antibacterial peptide family

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Jul;59(7):1138-50. doi: 10.1007/s00018-002-8493-8.


From the many peptide families that are induced upon bacterial infection and can be isolated from all classes of animals, the short, proline-rich antibacterial peptides enjoy particular interest. These molecules were shown to inactivate an intracellular biopolymer in bacteria without destroying or remaining attached to the bacterial cell membrane, and as such emerged as viable candidates for the treatment of mammalian infections. These peptides were originally isolated from insects, they kill mostly gram-negative bacteria with high efficiency and they show structural similarities with longer insect- and mammal-derived antimicrobial peptides. However, while the distant relatives appear to carry multiple functional domains, apidaecin, drosocin, formaecin and pyrrhocoricin consist of only minimal determinants needed to penetrate across the cell membrane and bind to the target biopolymer. These peptides appear to inhibit metabolic processes, such as protein synthesis or chaperone-assisted protein folding. Pyrrhocoricin derivatives protect mice from experimental infections in vivo, suggesting the utility of modified analogs in the clinical setting. Sequence variations of the target protein at the peptide-binding site may allow the development of new peptide variants that kill currently unresponsive strains or species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / toxicity
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / chemistry*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / toxicity
  • Insect Proteins / chemistry
  • Insect Proteins / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Peptides / toxicity
  • Proline / physiology*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Insect Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Proline